By Suma Varughese
Suma Varughese describes how a vipassana course changed her perception of life
It happened on the 10th day of my vipassana meditation course. It was then that I confronted my inability to go beyond a mind block, which stopped me from mentally scanning every part of the body.
The problem was caused by my intense desire to have the mind flow, for it signified success in meditation. Its absence bruised my self-image. No wonder I was suffering. The way out became clear now. If it was okay for me to have the mind block, then the intense misery caused by its presence would cease. In vipassana, they call it equanimity.
The insight was stunning. Only by renouncing joy can you renounce sorrow. The minute I want something to happen, I give birth to its opposite. It is so in all things big and small. The joy of giving birth is mingled with fears of losing the baby. The joy of falling in love with fears of the relationship ending. In my case, I had to let go of everything the flow signified. As soon as I did this, the mind began to flow.
Then I realized I was on to an absolute. I could use this insight in every aspect of my life. A moment-to-moment acceptance of reality would free me of all reactions and feelings. Reactions such as anger, irritation, uneasiness and inadequacy would no longer hold me in thrall.
Seven years ago, through a great act of grace, I had discovered that sacred zone within myself where I could correlate the welfare of the universe with my welfare. A zone of total freedom, happiness and radiant existence. It went, but not before I realized that my goal was to find my way back to that space.
Today, I’m not there yet. But with my newfound ability to unconditionally accept the reality of the moment, I feel I have been given the tool to do so. If I go beyond reactions, surely I will find myself focusing outside my self?
The calm within me today has made me aware of the stress and tension that every reaction generates. A friend calls up to cancel our lunch appointment. My lips tighten, and I immediately label her disorganized. Only when I acknowledge my anger does the tension melt away.
I have a strong resistance to negative feelings. I simply would not accept that I could be unhappy, angry or depressed. I had to be perfect. And this trapped me into my imperfect self.
Accepting my imperfections dissolves that conditioning. Forgetting my niece’s birthday is just that; it does not equate with being indifferent. Each act is separate; it does not coalesce into a conditioning. The past therefore ceases to impact the future.
There are times when I can’t let myself feel certain things. That’s fine too. I have the right to resist acceptance.’
Life flows today. It is no longer caught in the stagnant eddy of reaction and resistance. Acceptance cuts through the endless cycle of thoughts. The arguments, rationalizing, dreaming and fantasizing lose their power. You realize quite simply that thinking is irrelevant. You can ‘be’. In this stage, when I eat, I eat. When I read, I read. It is really as the Zen masters said it was.
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